On Independence Day, The Struggle To Regain Our Classrooms Continues
July 02, 2009, 05:00 AM
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OMG!

To think I was foolish enough to project into my summer cash flow my low-three-figure California income tax rebate.

With the state again locked in a budget battle that appears to have no permanent resolution, I now face a dilemma of an altogether different type. Should I frame my IOU from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger  and hang it on the wall to remind me of the wisdom of my decision to bolt?

During these early July days, I'm fixated on California.

First, I know several state employees. They are sick to death of being pawns in the budget battle. Some have already been forced to accept two non-paid work days a month—delicately called "furloughs"—and must now cope with a third. [Furlough Fridays Back—Now Three Days a Month by Jim Sanders, Sacramento Bee, July 1, 2009]

My state worker buddies wonder why they're the target when a much more voracious  consumer of state dollars—illegal immigrants—are staunchly defended by the governor.

My friends know how to calculate illegal immigration's cost. Three unpaid work days equal about a 14 percent reduction in their monthly salary.

Imagine if that same 14 percent were applied to the illegal immigration tab. My conservative estimate is that $1.5 billion would be saved.

Second, my former California teaching colleagues are worried. Education is always top on the legislators' list of expenses to be pared.

But again, if the state didn't have a school enrollment made up of 25 percent non-English speakers, it wouldn't need to hire as many bilingual teachers and to offer as many special services to immigrants.

Instead, it's teacher's heads that are on the chopping block. Since March, pink slips—some issued then withdrawn—have been widely sent out.

In California's largest district, Los Angeles Unified, nearly 6,000 teachers were in jeopardy as well as another 3,500 support personnel. Statewide, the at-risk teaching jobs totaled 20,000. [As LAUSD Lay Offs Loom, Debate Over Teacher Seniority Resurfaces, by Jason Song and Seema Metha, Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2009] Many younger teachers wonder if their next career move will take them out of state.

Imagine their surprise when I told them that, despite significant teacher layoffs up and down the I-5 corridor, Washington State has expanded an already aggressive plan to hire more foreign-born instructors and bring them to the U.S. on H-1B visas.

Over the past five years, at least 40 Washington school districts applied for H-1B visas to employ teachers and administrative staff.

Among those added were a high-school English teacher from Jamaica, a special-education teacher from India, and a parent-outreach coordinator from Chile.

A high school English teacher from Jamaica? A special-ed teacher from India? And a parent-outreach coordinator—whatever that is—from Chile?

A school district needs to go to Chile to find a parent-outreach coordinator?

With so many talented, experienced American teachers available hiring overseas is indefensible.

And, in fact, the case of Dominican Republic-born math teacher Francisco Size outlines all the pitfalls inherent in importing a foreign-born instructor.

The Highline School District recruited Size, who had "some teaching experience," at a New York job fair and helped him through the initial steps of getting to Washington.

After spending $3,500 on attorney and visa fees, Size landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport two weeks before he was to start teaching several classes of remedial math. Immediately, and without any urban teaching experience to fall back on, Size had trouble setting classroom rules and disciplining students. Size noted that teaching in the Dominican Republic, where youngsters are happy to have an opportunity, is substantially different than it is in urban America where unruly students call the shots.

Said Size: "I think I really maybe don't know the culture of the students, how they think, how high school [is] like here, what they expect from the teachers."

Sadly—but predictably—Size said he became depressed and brought those feelings into the classroom where he was unable to carry out his responsibilities. As a result, Highline will not renew his contract for next school year. [Washington Schools Hire Some Foreign Teachers by Using H-1B Visas, by Christine Willmsen and Lauren Turnbull, Seattle Times, June 28, 2009]

And, in the most incredible of ironies, in 2009-2010 the HIghline School District may lay off as many as 228 full time teacher positions. [Highline School District Budget Cuts May Mean Up to 228 Teacher Layoffs, by Scott Schaefer, White Center Blog, April 21, 2009]

Last month Size interviewed for a math teaching position at a Houston school that hires H-1B workers. Why any school would hire Size—or even interview him—given his Seattle failure is a mystery.

The total human cost of the Size experiment is this: The several classes of remedial math that were entrusted to Size by inept school administrators have now taken a one-year step backward. Most remedial students won't recover from so much lost time.

The entire hiring process and whatever expenses are involved in it must be repeated.

An overlooked but qualified American teacher was reduced to substituting and probably spent his spare time looking for a career outside of education.

Size will most likely never return to the Dominican Republic, but will instead take up permanent residency, legally or illegally, in Houston, Seattle or wherever he finally lands.

The H-1B beat goes on—even though laid-off engineers, recently-retired teachers, burnt-out corporate middle managers are only a few of those Americans who would be happy to take those teaching jobs.

I asked a veteran California educator who worked with H-1B visa teachers to explain his experience to me. He said:

"Initially, we had to work with large student immigrant populations—first Mexicans, then Southeast Asians, then many more Mexicans with other ethnicities soon arriving in the classroom in large numbers.

"Now, it seems we have to train foreign-born teachers too. We have to mentor them to make sure they understand our teaching system and know what they can and cannot do especially in the area of discipline. They need to understand, for example, the importance of politically-correct lesson plans, an ethnically-sensitive classroom environment and a million related things like parent-teacher conferences.

"These things are mostly unknown in the countries from which the new teachers come. And it becomes another responsibility for us who have plenty to do already to make sure they are aware. And naturally our students suffer.

"I feel sorry for them because they aren't bad people. But they are way out of their league."

Another teacher summed up the H-1B teacher invasion this way: "I guess if the U.S. can't outsource teaching jobs to India, we'll import the person to the job."

The H-1B program, and other non-immigrant visa similar to it, remains the single most effective destructor of high tech labor in this country. It brings in low-quality, low-cost labor and lets it delude itself into thinking it is benefitting this country—all too often in the name of "diversity".

Basta! Our classrooms are diverse enough. And our children have suffered the consequences long enough without adding ineffective foreign-born teachers into the already poisonous mix.

Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.